By Kira Stokes
We all have those days that end up being unplanned days off from the gym — a business call goes long, a meeting gets scheduled last minute — life just happens. Don't let a glitch in your game plan sabotage your goal of being active daily. Find a way to fit these three super simple, yet effective exercises (in true Stoked Form I've included progressions for extra credit) into your busy life, anytime anywhere. They will leave you feeling tuned up and STOKED to hit it hard during your next "official" workout.
It's important to note that all three of these exercises have a strong focus on the core. I always say the core is the powerhouse of your body, from where all strength and stability is derived. In short, the core refers to the muscles of your torso, including your rectus and transverse abdominals, as well as your internal and external obliques. But, it also includes your low back and muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, including your glutes. A strong core is essential to move properly, efficiently, and enhance your functional strength. So... be very mindful of this area during these three exercises. Make sure your set up always includes drawing your navel toward your spine and bracing with your abdominals. Mind your muscle — put your brain power into your core and activate!
1. Dynamic Bird Dog - Abs, Back, Glutes, and Hips
- Start on all fours, wrists beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips, gaze toward the floor so you have a neutral position with your head and neck.
- Draw your navel toward your spine and maintaining a flat back position, extend your right arm (thumb to the ceiling) and left leg parallel to the floor (feel your left glute engage). Find stability in this position.
- Crunch your right elbow toward your left knee (your spine will round a bit) with the goal of making contact elbow to knee. Hold for one to two seconds to really feel the engagement of your core.
- Continue 12-15 reps then switch sides.
Progression: Add two pulses of the extended leg (be sure not to hyper extend on the pulses) and arm to focus a bit more on the glute and challenge your stability even more.
2. High Plank or Extended Arm Plank - Abs, Back, Shoulders, Triceps, Chest
- Start with wrists under your shoulders, legs extended directly behind you, feet hip width apart, gaze toward the floor.
- Roll your shoulders down your back and make sure the crease of your elbows point forward, elbows point directly back.
- Draw your navel toward your spine AND engage your glutes. Give yourself a slight tuck to your tailbone to alleviate any unnatural arch to your back or hyperlordosis to your spine.
- Push through your heels to lengthen your calves.
- Hold for 60 seconds
Progression: FYI, a push-up is a moving plank. The most seamless push-up progression from a high plank would be a triceps push-up:
- Keep your hands in the exact position as a plank.
- Shift your shoulders over your wrists slightly and rotate the elbows in so they hug your rib cage as you begin to lower your body, maintaining a plank position.
- Lower your body until your elbows are locked by your sides, with your shoulders elbow-height. Hover and hold for one or two seconds being mindful of your core, then press back up to your start position.
- Perform 12-15 reps
*Triceps push-ups are incredibly challenging. There is nothing wrong with performing them on your knees, then progressing to your toes once you feel confident in your form.
Another push-up option (a bit easier) would be a wide grip push-up position, which focuses more on the chest and requires you to walk your hands further apart than shoulder width. With this option, your forearms and biceps should form right angles with one another when holding the bent elbow push-up position. Remember not to flare your elbows.
3. Glute Bridge - Posterior Chain - Glutes, Hamstrings
- Lay on the floor in a supine position, knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Make sure your heels are directly under your knees so you can graze your heels with your fingertips when you stretch your arms down by your side.
- Drive through your heels to lift your glutes off the ground. Hold for about two seconds and squeeze your glutes hard (#SQOTD - squeeze your cheeks like you have a check for a million dollars in between them and you have to hold it there). Keep your belly button drawn in so you do not hyper-extend your back. You want to feel this in your glutes and hamstrings, not your low back.
- Release and repeat 15 to 20 reps.
Progression: Single Leg Glute Bridge
- Set up as you would for the Glute Bridge, then raise one leg off the ground extending it toward the ceiling. Work hard not to swing the extended leg as you lift and lower your glutes, driving through the heel of the planted foot.
- If you need a bit more stability, walk the foot on the ground more toward the midline of your body. Keep your abs engaged to protect your back.
- Perform 20 reps each leg or do as a series with the basic Glute Bridge: 10 Glute Bridge, 20 single leg left foot planted, 20 single leg right foot planted, 10 Glute Bridge.
I suggest you ultimately complete these exercises (with or without progressions) as a circuit, repeated three times. Not only should these three become your go-to when life gets in the way, but they are incredible to add to your daily routine whether you are able to make it to the gym or not. GET STOKED to stay active, no excuses!
And if you can't make it to the gym, and still want a full workout, you can find me on Booya Fitness: booyafitness.com/the-stoked-series
Kira Stokes, a graduate of Boston College with a BS in psychology and a minor in health science, has excelled in the personal training and fitness industry for over 18 years.
Kira's personal training clients include professional athletes, celebrities, television journalists and dignitaries. She has trained co-hosts of the television show “The View,” including Sherri Shepherd. She currently works with former "The View" co-host and TV personality Jenny McCarthy. She also trains co-anchors of “CBS This Morning” and the “Today Show.”
Kira's focus is on innovative training, concentrating on transforming the body and mind. She has developed a signature training technique, The Stoked Method, which combines functional and traditional methods of working the body. Her personal training methods have evolved to include a unique combination of strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, sports specific drills, yoga, and Pilates.
In November 2014 Kira was chosen as the celebrity brand partner for BFX Studio. Her signature "Stoked Series" classes are exclusively offered at the Chelsea location.